My brother texted me the other day. “Did you see the article about your ex going off on somebody at the Correspondent's dinner?” I texted him that I hadn't. “Google it” came back. So even though I don’t normally give a damn about my ex, I went straight to my computer the moment I walked in the door. What better way to feel good about myself, than a reminder of how much worse life could be if I were still married to that guy?
There were several articles to choose from. According to those who witnessed it, the ex had gotten furious (my word not theirs) with his 'handler' when said ‘handler’ introduced him to the wrong reporter. Said 'handler' goofed on a social introduction. In short, the ex found himself next to NPR’s Kitty Eisele, who edits Morning Edition, instead of whoever he was really there to meet. Egregious. Does anything make you angrier than having your 'handler' screw up? Poor underpaid overworked intern probably so terrified he'd make a mistake (ensuring he would) sat you down next to the wrong reporter. Well how could one be expected to react other than to "scream obsenities" (if I'm quoting the article correctly) "about how this wasn't even the right f*%king person" or something.
The word, handler, and the fact that the ex even had one, struck me funny. Don’t get me wrong, after having lived with him for over a decade, I’m not disputing that he might need handling. That’s a given. But to see it referred to in print--hilarious. Apparently at the end of his tirade and general lack of good manners, my ex had turned to the correspondent to whom he’d been erroneously prompted to introduce himself to and said “Are we okay? Sorry.” They weren't, of course. Okay, that is. The ex had been a maniac and she was offended.
Huh. That particular image smelled familiar. I'd have to say it summed up my marriage to him. At least she, the correspondent, had a platform on which to call him out. She was also probably an adult. Neither of which I had or was when I was with him. I’m all grown up now. And although I have a platform, I don’t need to call him out. That water has long since passed under my bridge. Only on the occasions that I catch a glimpse of him as I change channels, or see his mug dressed in drag on billboards and buses, do I even think about him. And when that happens, it almost feels more like a book I once read, than a life I once lead. I haven’t spoken to him in a decade.
This is what I remember about our last conversation. The caller ID read private caller. I recall thinking, “I flipping hate private callers. The hubris. The pomposity.” (Or something like that). Should have known better than to take the call. I’d rather have mosquito bites than answer private numbers.
“Umm, hi,” said the strange and all too familiar voice. “It’s Jeffrey.”
My thought was, “ That's how I refer to him. Milkdud. Looks delicious, yet the danger of dental surgery lurks hidden beneath the sweet. I levitated a little bit. My ham hocks quivered. My bugger-in-law had hinted this call might be coming but had not sufficiently cautioned me about it. Oy. The ex-milkdud.”
“What’s up?” I pep rallied. We chatted. We chatted, as if there were no decade of suspenders between us. Twice in the conversation, we laughed easily, without the memories of rancor and spite. He asked about my baby. He asked about my man. He told me that he was due to become a daddy and a grandfather within days of each other. I felt hurt by that. Hurt that he was going to have children when all I had longed for in the years we were together was to have a child. But then I remembered who he is and I remembered to feel grateful that we weren't bound to each other for all time.
Then he got to it. “Here’s why I am calling.” My skin trembles with grief and adrenaline while my heart recalls him with turkey bacon and whispered promises. “I just wanted to say sorry.”
Oh,”Alright.”faced and his muscles trembling with rage. I think of the day he told me he had never wanted more children and that he had just been waiting for me to get over my desire to reproduce. We pause. He's waiting for my response, I'm waiting to come up with one. Finally I do. “ I think of the time he punched the hole in the wall. I think of the word bellow and picture him red- I say. “
“So,” he says letting go a deep breath. “Are we okay?”